Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Birthday (November 28, 2013)

"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" by Jennie A. Brownscombe (1914)

We all think we are pretty familiar with the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S.  It is the holiday that is popularly recognized as having started in 1621 with the Mayflower "Pilgrims."  The Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts in 1620 and only 53 of the 102 Mayflower passengers survived the first winter.  As any grammar school student will tell you, following their first harvest in 1621, the surviving Pilgrims held a feast of thanksgiving in celebration.  The feast lasted three days and 90 Native Americans attended as guests.  Many think that Thanksgiving was thereafter established by tradition as a November harvest feast and holiday -- but like most things to do with holidays and celebrations in the U.S., it is not that simple.

The genesis of Thanksgiving as a celebration in the U.S. is mixed up in trying to make distinctions between religious celebrations of Thanksgiving and a public holiday celebration established by
proclamation or statute.  As early as the 1500s, religious observances of thanksgiving were practiced by Spaniards in areas that eventually became part of the U.S. In Jamestown, Virginia there were religious services of thanksgiving as early as 1610 -- 11 years before the harvest feast of the Pilgrims in 1621.

In the early colonial period in America periodic festivals of "giving thanks" were celebrated by various colonies on different dates and not every year.  The first national celebration of thanksgiving in America came after the Declaration of Independence when the Continental Congress declared the First Proclamation of Thanksgiving in 1777 -- while temporarily located at York, Pennsylvania because the British occupied Philadelphia.  And in December 1777, George Washington declared a victory celebration of thanksgiving after the British were defeated at Saratoga, New York.  Various designations of thanksgiving celebrations took place after American Independence was declared and the Revolutionary War was fought until George Washington, as President, created and declared in the City of New York the first Thanksgiving Day on October 3, 1789.  Subsequent presidents also declared Thanksgivings and some state governors did likewise until President Lincoln, during
the raging of the Civil War via a Presidential Proclamation, established a national Thanksgiving Day on October 3, 1863 and set the celebration for the "last Thursday of November" in 1863.

Since 1863 "Thanksgiving" has been celebrated as a national holiday in the United States, but not with the kind of uniformity and lack of controversy that most of us would think.

All of the Presidents after Lincoln followed the Lincoln proclamation and annually declared the last Thursday of November as the Thanksgiving holiday.  But then, in 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt was faced with a November having five Thursdays rather than the usual four AND he was presented with the argument (in the midst of the Depression) that making the Thanksgiving holiday the fourth Thursday rather than the last Thursday that November would give more shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas and thereby help the economy.  He was convinced and proclaimed the next to last Thursday in November 1939 to be the national Thanksgiving holiday. Despite protests from Republicans that the change to the fourth Thursday from the "last Thursday" in November was an affront to the tradition established by Lincoln, within two years of FDR's switch to the fourth Thursday in November, the holiday was established as the fourth Thursday each November.  On October 6, 1941 a joint resolution of Congress fixed the national Thanksgiving holiday as the fourth Thursday of each November beginning with November 26, 1942.

The transition of our national Thanksgiving holiday to the fourth Thursday in November from the "last Thursday" did not go smoothly, however, and for a time many people called November 30th (because the last Thursday in 1939 was November 30th) the "Republican Thanksgiving" and called November 23rd (because the fourth Thursday in 1939 was November 23rd) the "Democratic Thanksgiving" or "Franksgiving" (an apparent amalgamation of "Franklin's Thanksgiving"). The years 1940 and 1941 each had only four Thursdays in November and FDR declared the third Thursday in each of those years as Thanksgiving.  Many states and localities had a tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving as the last Thursday of November and they were loath to give up that tradition. Also, the fact that football schedules were made far in advance and so the traditional Thanksgiving Day games were already set for the last Thursday, further complicated any change.  Annual presidential declarations were not legally binding and so only 23 states followed Roosevelt's proclamation while 22 did not.  Texas was one state that could not or would not decide between the two options and so took both days as holidays.

Finally, as I mentioned in an earlier post here on The Prism about the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy, that horrible crime and Thanksgiving have ever since been connected in my mind because Thanksgiving in 1963 was a mere six days after the assassination.  What I did not say then, is that both of those events are also forever linked in my mind with my father's birthday.  My father was born on November 28th and the fourth Thursday in November 1963 was the 28th -- Thanksgiving Day six days after the assassination was also my father's birthday.  And now today, 50 years later, my father's birthday is once again on Thanksgiving Day.  Today our family will be giving thanks for many things and will gather together in celebration.  Chief among the celebrations for us today will be the thanksgiving of having our parents with us as we celebrate my father's 91st birthday.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!! 





[Due to the celebration of Thanksgiving and my father's birthday at my sister's home in another state, The Prism will be on a brief hiatus for several days.  Happy Thanksgiving to all!]      
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Image of "The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" by Jennie A. Brownscombe (1914).  The image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Thanksgiving-Brownscombe.jpg 

Photograph of A.G. Tew, Jr. in the collection of the author.

For more information on the history of Thanksgiving in the U.S., see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanksgiving_(United_States)
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wordless Wednesday (November 27, 2013) -- My Grandfather's WWI Troop Billet Aboard the U.S.S. Imperator




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Scanned image of original WWI Troop Billet of Everett S. Carpenter now in the collection of the author.
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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Monday, November 25, 2013

Military Monday (November 25, 2013) -- Mason Freeman's Civil War Draft Registration




Mason Freeman is my 2x great grandfather.  He was born in Mendon, Massachusetts on June 14, 1820 and died on April 10, 1898.  He is buried in Moshassuck Cemetery in Central Falls, Rhode Island along with his wife, my 2x great grandmother, Martha Amanda Freeman, nee Shearman (July 10, 1830 -  August 28, 1870).

Mason Freeman (1820 - 1898)

On June 25, 1863, Mason Freeman was among the men registered in "Class II" as "subject to do military duty" in the First Congressional District in Rhode Island.  That district consisted of the counties of Newport, Bristol, and part of Providence. 

"Class II" registration was for persons who were not in Class I.  Class I consisted of men between the ages of twenty and thirty-five and all unmarried men above the age of thirty-five but under age forty-five.

At the time of Mason's registration, he was living in the 21st District of North Providence, Rhode Island.  He was 43 years old and the father of four children ranging in age from 11 months to 11 years old.  His occupation (as stated on the last line of the registration page  shown above) was "merchant."

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Original photograph of Mason Freeman in the collection of the author.
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saturday Serendipity (November 23, 2013)




Saturdays often allow a more leisurely approach to life than work days. I can more easily post links to some blog posts or other materials I have discovered during the week, or even to those discovered during a Saturday morning coffee and extended surfing of the blogosphere/internet.

Here are a few recommendations for inclusion on your reading list.

1.  Want to see what your grndmothers or maybe great grandmothers wore when they went swimming in the 1920s.  Well, what they wore if they were one of the fashionable "Bathing Girls" is shown in a panoramic photo here from the 1920s.

2.  The Weekly Genealogist newsletter by NEHGS links to a New York Times piece about the strange disappearance of one of only three known "six pounder" cannons used by British general John Burgoyne's army.  Read about the return of the cannon to Saratoga National Historical Park here

3.  Wondering about holiday gift ideas?  Making presents of your collected genealogy treasures is almost always a hit.  I have gifted copies of 25 years worth of our family Christmas/holiday newsletters, a framed copy of a great great grandfather's Civil War discharge paper, framed portraits of ancestors, etc.  Nancy at My Ancestors and Me has a great quote and example for what could be a very easy and
memorable gift to family members this year.  Check it out here.

4.  An example of one of those tantalizing mysteries that can gnaw at us and keep us thinking and searching as we compile our genealogies is presented by Laura Mattingly at The Old Trunk in the Attic.

5. Yet another nice on-line resource for those with an interest in all things related to Little Rhody. The holdings of the Rhode Island State Archives, containing historical records dating from 1638 to the present, can now be browsed/searched on line here.

6. If you have a house in your family that you have always wanted to know more about -- the genealogy of the house if you will -- then you will want to read the 7-page piece on researching the history of a house here on the This Old House website.

7. UpFront With NGS also brings to our attention in its latest edition of "Mini Bytes" a free offer for an e-book about how to search obituaries.  The book is provided by Family Tree Magazine and
GenealogyBank and you have to provide your name and email address to get access to the e-book.  If interested, check it out here.

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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday Fotos (November 22, 2013)


A week ago today I posted my recollections of the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.  Today was the 50th anniversary of that historically criminal act.  

Rather than posting photographs of that awful day and the events in the succeeding days, I would like to point readers to a series of posts at The Vault, the site for "Historical Treasures, Oddities, and Delights" at Slate.  

At this link you can see a transcript of Lady Bird Johnson's memories of November 22, 1963.

Here you can see and read about a letter written to Press Secretary Pierre Salinger on October 28, 1963 begging President Kennedy not to visit Dallas.

And here you can see one of the 5,000 flyers distributed around Dallas, Texas in the days before November 22, 1963.  The flyer declares, "WANTED FOR TREASON" with mug shot-style photos of President Kennedy on the cover.  The flyer accuses Kennedy of being lax on Communism, appointing "anti-Christians' to federal offices, and other offenses.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wordless Wednesday (November 20, 2013) -- Suggested Captions Solicited Via Comments . . .



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Original photograph in the collection of the author.
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Three Family Daguerreotypes (November 19, 2013)

Ann Eliza Patt (1803 - 1887), wife of John Bowen Shearman


John Bowen Shearman (1799 - 1881), husband of Ann Eliza Patt


Samuel Carpenter (1828 - 1904)

Yesterday was the birthday of Louis-Jacques-Mande' Daguerre (November 18, 1787 - July 10, 1851). Daguerre was an artist and a physicist.  He is best known for his invention of an early method of photography that took his name as the daguerreotype.  

The process Daguerre developed took advantage of the light sensitivity of silver salts. It involved exposing copper sheets having a layer of silver plating on it to vapors given off by iodine crystals.  This procedure left a very thin layer of light-sensitive silver iodide that could then be exposed in a camera.  The big problem with this late 1830s photographic process was that it required long exposures to produce a decent image and so early subjects were buildings and things that could not move.  Human subjects had to stay as still as possible for a long time for portraits and that is one reason the poses look so wooden and frozen.  

Millions of daguerreotypes were produced when the process was refined and portrait sitting times were reduced from as much as thirty minutes to just a few seconds, but when paper-based processes replaced the metal daguerreotypes beginning in around 1855, the expense and difficult viewing of the daguerreotype photograph spelled its demise; by the late 1860s few photographers were still using the daguerreotype process.

The above daguerreotypes are of my 3rd great grandparents, John and Ann Shearman, and my 2nd great grandfather, Samuel Carpenter, in his Civil War uniform.

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Daguerreotypes in the personal collection of the author.
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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Monday, November 18, 2013

Matrilineal Monday (November 18, 2013) -- Poem by Nettie Flagg Cooke




Florence Leonette Cooke (nee Flagg) is my great grandmother (my mother's mother's mother). She was born in Southborough, Massachusetts on May 13, 1870 and she died at age 34 on July 20, 1904 in N. Attleboro, Massachusetts -- almost exactly three months after the death of her last child.  She was always known as "Nettie."

As I have written elsewhere her at The Prism, my grandmother was one of six children of Nettie Flagg Cooke and her husband, Walter Wilson Cooke (1869 - 1944).  Tragically, Nettie and Walter lost three of their six children: Russell Cooke (1893 - 1894); Dorothy B. Cooke (1899 - 1907); and Russell Church Cooke (1902 - 1904).  As might be expected, this deeply saddened Nettie and quite likely contributed to her untimely death at age 34.

Shown above is an undated poem Nettie wrote that exhibits her depression, pain, and yet hope for something better.  I suspect this was written not long after the death of her son Russell Church Cooke on April 23, 1904.  A transcription of the poem follows . . . 

                    Shut in by sickness
                    Saddened by disappointment
                    I lay and watched one day
                           The setting sun.
                     I'm one day nearer home I murmured
                           And I'm glad, so glad
                               The day is done.

                      I closed my eyes and let
                      The mystic spell of twilight
                           Soothe me to rest
                      Ere the last crimson ray had gone
                           When suddenly the room
                      Was filled with brightness
                           For the lights were on
                       And so in this way, perhaps
                            Death may come to me
                        When life's little day is done
                    
                         We close our eyes, but for a moment
                         To open them in Heaven's brightness
                                 Where God's lights are always on.

                   Nettie Flagg Cooke

Nettie Flagg Cooke


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Scan of original poem in the collection of the author.
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Samaritan Sunday (November 17, 2013) -- The Purple Heart of a Utah Beach Fatality Finds A Proper Home


[If you should choose to adopt this prompt to contribute your own stories of folks who have gone out of their way to lend genealogy-related assistance to others, I would greatly appreciate a mention to Filiopietism Prism whenever you do so.  Thank you!  And please do use the same photograph below to illustrate the prompt.  ;-) ]





Matthew Carlson probably did not set out to be a Good Samaritan when he went to a swap meet in Glendale, Arizona.  But Carlson was a Vietnam Veteran and so when he came across a mixture of trinkets and costume jewelry at one table he immediately recognized a Purple Heart medal sitting in among the jumble.  Carlson had $20.00 with him and asked the vendor how much he wanted for the Purple Heart.  The asking price was $40.00. As Carlson put it, he did not want to see the medal, "hanging on the shirt of some kid going to a rave party or something like that."  He offered the vendor the full $20.00 he had and walked away with the medal.

It is not unusual for military medals to surface at swap meets, flea markets and in antique shops, but since 2012 there seems to have been more instances of medals such as Purple Hearts being sold in such places and on the Internet.  Some point to the Supreme Court's overturning (6 to 3) of the "Stolen Valor Act" on free speech grounds as a catalyst for increased sales of military awards.  The Act, introduced by Democrats in both the House and the Senate, criminalized falsely claiming the right to high military honors. It was an expansion of existing law that prohibited the unauthorized manufacture, sale or wearing of military decorations and medals.  When it was struck down it also allowed medals to be bought and sold. Among genuine collectors, Purple Hearts, which are awarded to those killed or wounded in combat, can sell for as much as $500.    

Clearly, Matthew Carlson did not like the idea of someone possibly wearing a medal such as the Purple Heart if it was not earned -- all Supreme Court endorsed free speech considerations aside.  He was not a collector himself, but he took the medal he rescued from the jumble of trinkets and examined it and its presentation case.  The medal was in good shape and it was engraved on the back, "For Military Merit, Clarence M. Merriott."  The medal sat safely in Carlson's home for some time as the idea of trying to find out who Clarence Merriott was and how to locate him or his family percolated in his mind.  

The military will not release information about service members due to privacy concerns and so Matthew Carlson seemed to be on his own to track down the story of this particular Purple Heart -- until he asked his son if he knew how to use the Internet to research things.  His son looked at his computer neophyte dad and simply said, "Yes."  And with that the search was on.

The search expanded outward from Carlson and his son to include a U.S. Congressman, a WWII veteran of the 300th Engineers, a discovered letter, a name inscribed on a WWII Memorial in Adair County, Oklahoma [hat-tip to the worthiness and usefulness of Heather Rojo's Military Honor Roll Project ], and a helpful woman with the Adair County Historical Society who happened to know some Merriotts in the area and who found a distant cousin of Clarence Merriott.

To read the full story about Clarence Merriott and the role played by a scrapbook compiled by a teenage girl that contained newspaper clippings from 1943 - 1944 about men from the Adair area who had served in WWII, go here.  You will see a photo of Clarence Merriott, what is believed to be his last letter to his family, a picture of the Adair War Memorial and the Purple Heart, AND you can learn about the other Good Samaritans involved in this story.  

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Photograph of the The Good Samaritan sculpture by Francois-Leon Sicard (1862 - 1934).  The sculpture is located in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris, France.  The photograph is by Marie-Lan Nguyen and has been placed in the public domain by her. See, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Good_Samaritan_Sicard_Tuileries.jpg
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Saturday Serendipity (November 16, 2013)




Saturdays often allow a more leisurely approach to life than work days. I can more easily post links to some blog posts or other materials I have discovered during the week, or even to those discovered during a Saturday morning coffee and extended surfing of the blogosphere/internet.

Here are a few recommendations for inclusion on your reading list.

1.  As a related read to the one posted here recently about criminal slang . . . if you have letters or diaries from family members who wrote home during WWII and some of it does not exactly make sense, then maybe the wording includes some slang in use during the war.  The Vault at Slate provides a list of WWII military slang and some translations.  It also provides links to where you can find more.

2.  Do you remember telegrams?  You surely have seen references to telegrams in movies and plays even if you never sent or received one yourself.  Well if you live in the U.S. or India or a number of other countries you are too late to send or receive a telegram now.  The last telegram in India was sent this past July.  The last one in the U.S. was sent in 2006.  To see a nice telegram example and learn more about the demise of telegrams, check UpFront at NGS and the links provided there.

3.  Did you ever wonder about how dating cemeteries is accomplished when there are no explicit documents to tell when a cemetery was first founded and used?  Midge Frazel at Granite in My Blood explains AND provides a very rare photo example of a then and now comparison of a preserved headstone.

4.  Many of us have special needs members of our families or know others who do.  This is just a "feel good read" here about how people can react positively to try to undo the ugliness others create when stressed out and wrapped up only in their own needs and desires. [A hat tip to Wegman's in Liverpool, NY!]

5.  Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings muses on 11 benefits that a "traditional" local genealogical society could/should provide for members -- and can also be a roadmap for why and how to start such an organization if one does not exist near you.    

6.  I have noted before that Diane Boumenot is a very thoughtful and careful researcher who always writes interesting and informative posts that are roadmaps to how to approach and methodically tackle a genealogy research project.  When she offers a new post it is always worth reading, whether you have Rhode Island connections or not, because they are generically instructive.  Diane's November 11th post, On Poverty, Records, and Chicken Thieves is no exception and it is well worth the read.       

7.  And speaking of Rhode Island, which is often referred to as "Little Rhody,". . .  there is a new site brought to us by the Rhode Island Historical Society (RIHS) called "RHODI" -- the Rhode Island History Online Directory Initiative.  As the October 2013 project launch notice stated, RHODI is intended to be  "
A comprehensive list of history and heritage organizations within the state, RHODI is designed to be a one stop portal for visitors looking to research genealogy, visit a historic house, or to learn more about their local history."  This site is a true cornucopia of links to all things Rhode Island.  Visit it and feast yourself on its bounty!

8.  The Weekly Genealogist newsletter by NEHGS provided this link to a fascinating story about Hart Island at the western end of Long Island Sound.  The island is the final resting place of almost a million New Yorkers, but few people have ever set foot on the island.  The public has been banned from the island for over three decades. Read about this "potter's field" for New York, its varied history, and view some photographs and satellite maps.   

9.  The most dramatic and horrifying images that almost everyone associates with the assassination of John F. Kennedy 50 years ago next Friday (whether or not they lived through the events), are not some of the many static photographs that emerged in the aftermath.  It is the images of the color video of the actual shooting as captured by Abraham Zapruder, a 58-year-old, Russian-born garment manufacturer.  He co-founded a women's clothing company called Jennifer Juniors, Inc. that produced brands known as Chalet and Jennifer Juniors. His offices were directly across the street from the Texas School Book Depository from which the shots that killed the president were fired.  Mr. Zapruder filmed with an 8mm, hand-held Bell & Howell camera.  He captured in 486 frames lasting 26.6 seconds the moving images of the motorcade passing through Dealey Plaza.  Those 26.6 seconds captured the actual assassination and became perhaps the most famous "home-made" movie in history.  The story of how the film was purchased by LIFE magazine and how it came to be seen by countless millions is told in text and video here on TIME magazine's LightBox feature for November 13, 2013.  It is well worth reading and viewing. 

10.  And finally, as an update to the November 4th post here at The Prism  ("The Godfather, John M.T. Godfrey"), I was quite surprised to learn this week about the disturbing fact that service in the military makes our veterans TWICE as likely to die from ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) as those in the general population.  
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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